Proposal to appeal USM firings under review

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — Appeals begin Oct. 18 for University of Southern Mississippi faculty members who were terminated because of budget cuts, according to a proposal under review by campus groups.

USM Provost Bob Lyman said he sent out the proposal for an appeals committee with faculty representation to various campus constituencies this week.

“Short of a glaring error of some sort that needs to be corrected, I think it’s pretty safe to say we are embarking on this one,” Lyman told the Hattiesburg American.

Campus faculty groups have so far expressed modest support for the proposal. Tammy Greer, the chapter president of the American Association of University Professors, said the proposal doesn’t go far enough in terms of faculty representation.

The appeals committee will be a nine-member body with four deans and five regular faculty members. In the case of each program, the dean from that college will not serve on the committee.

Individual faculty appeals will follow program appeals.

Recommendations on whether to restore programs or the 28 faculty members will be made on a majority vote basis. USM President Martha Saunders will make the final decision on whether to follow the committee’s recommendations.

Lyman said that a program appeal before the committee will be judged both on its argument of mission and quality, as well as its ability to outline budget cut alternatives.

The executive cabinet had first proposed appeals before cabinet members, similar to last year’s Academic Planning Group appeals, but scrapped the idea on the grounds that the body that made the cuts in the first place shouldn’t then hear the appeals.

Faculty Senate President Anita Davis applauded the faculty presence on the committee.

“It’s far better than if it (appeals) had gone before the cabinet alone,” Davis said.

But Greer said the proposal violates AAUP recommendations. The AAUP is a nationwide organization that outlines best practices policies for relationships between faculty members and their institutions. It is not a regulatory agency.

“They’ve moved in the right direction, but they haven’t gone as far as the AAUP recommendations,” Greer said.

State AAUP President Garry Jennings of Delta State University explained that, according to AAUP policy, a faculty member scheduled for termination must receive a hearing from a “duly constituted faculty body” not simply a committee with faculty members on it.